The future of eLearning

chrislema-face

Let me start with a really big caveat: I love all the eLearning solutions that are out there. I am just wrapping up a new course (“My Rainmaker Secrets”) on the Rainmaker platform. I’m also working on a long comparison post of Teachery, the New Kajabi platform, JigSawBox, Teachable, Zippy Courses (the hosted model), and more. And I love the WordPress plugins that are out there like LifterLMS and WP Courseware. So I’m a big fan of all of that great stuff. The post below doesn’t take anything away from that.

What if?

You’ve likely seen the same stats that I have—everyone is using their phone. For everything. Except maybe phone calls.

I drive a silent car. This summer I almost killed people because my silent car was driving in the middle of the road (where it was supposed to be). But right there, in the middle of the road, were people (not just kids) walking across me and my silent car, staring down at their phones looking for Pokemon.

They play games on their phone. They browse websites on their phone. They text each other on their phone.

What if they also wanted to learn on their phone?

The old CBT days

I am older every day. But when I talk about online learning, I really feel old. Because when I was just getting started, it used to be called Computer Based Training. And we paid experts to fly across the country to install a special computer (even painted a different color) that would have the special software that could run the CDs of content so that employees could take lessons.

In those days people didn’t think it would stick.

Everyone loved the classroom model. People would sign up for a class—a few weeks in the future. Then, on the day before the class, the training department would send out reminders. And on the day of the training, we’d see about 75% of the registrants if we were lucky. Because everyone’s day job got in the way.

The idea behind CBT, at least one of them, was the same as online learning – people could take a course from their desk whenever they had time.

But what happens if we’re not at our desk all the time?

What if the current “online learning” model becomes as outdated as the old mode of CBT is today?

What we know for sure

Here are five things I feel are true. I hate saying they’re facts without having resources to prove that I know what I’m talking about. But check them and see if you agree.

  1. People have their phones with them almost all the time.
  2. People do more on their phones than ever before.
  3. People have a short attention span and it’s shrinking every day.
  4. Few people read anymore. Almost no one is reading 10-25 books a year.
  5. Today’s jobs are constantly changing.

Would you agree? Can we call those facts? Like I said, I feel like those are pretty accurate and something I can build my argument on.

Everything is changing…

In the old days, every job was clear. The requirements for those jobs were also clear. And the career path people took to get those jobs was clear. I know that corporate eLearning is only one segment of the eLearning world. But work with me here, because I think it applies more broadly than to just the corporate world.

When jobs, requirements and career paths were all clear, training was simple. You knew what courses to create; you knew who should take them; you even knew in what order they should be taken.

But today none of that applies.

In the old days that aren’t so old, you also knew where people would be (at their desks) and the world had clear hours of when people worked. So you could plan training – either online or in a classroom at prescribed times.

But today none of that applies.

The future of eLearning

Don’t get me wrong, much of what we know works will still work.

  • Pre-lesson-assessments will still be useful.
  • Post-lesson-assessments will still be useful.
  • Video lessons will still be useful.
  • Gamification and leader boards will still be useful.

I don’t think those things are going away.

But our attention span is going away. And as great as all the hosted education platforms are, they are all treating each person pretty much like every other person (just on a different dripped schedule). I think that’s going away.

The future of eLearning will be:

  • Driven by mobile not desktops—and available at any time
  • Delivered in tiny pieces (consumed in less than 5 5-minutehunks)
  • Highly Interactive (as in a choose-your-own-adventure book)
  • With local and global competitive dynamics

Mobile not Desktop Driven

This prediction isn’t Earth-shattering. It’s just how the world is working. People are doing everything on their phone. There days when I’m traveling where I don’t even take my laptop out of my backpack. The future of online training will have to start with a mobile solution, not an afterthought.

Delivered in Tiny Pieces

I know that the more we cater to a short attention span, the worse we make things. But there’s no way around it. People aren’t sitting in front of their computers to watch a 45 minute lesson. They’re not reading books. They need the material broken into the most important parts and delivered quickly and easily.

Can I be honest with you about something? As a reader of books, I hate that most business books are 25% material and 75% filler. I wish I could just buy the 25%. Because if your core concept really only takes me a chapter to grasp, why write the other 9 chapters? The same is true for a lot of training material.

Highly Interactive

I can get tennis shoes that are custom designed. I can get books printed with my kids names in it as the main characters. But when I begin an online learning lesson, I’m suddenly treated like a number. The next and last buttons are blinking at me. This isn’t how the future will look. Leaders in the space will need to turn training into a choose your own adventure. The answers to your questions and the material you watch, gives you choices and options that allow you to shape your learning path. That’s where things will go.

Competitive like a Game

Everyone is out there selling online course platforms. I get it. But the consequence of this craze is that they’re all running their own local leaderboards. There’s very little competition inspired by this current model. But if you look at Fitbit, Nike Plus, or even iPhone game apps, the central leader board creates hyper local competition (as my friends sign up and create their own circle of influence), as well as global competition (turns out I will never be the best at Ticket to Ride).

Just my opinion, what’s yours?

I’ve spent the last six months taking a break, doing a lot of reading, and spending time thinking about the problems that need solving. While this isn’t the only thing I’ve spent time thinking about, it’s a big one. Whether we’re talking about leadership development (which I write about over at Leaders.blog), or we talk about corporate training, or we look at today’s online learning solutions, or we simply talk about what it will take to help people get equipped for jobs that don’t even exist, the question of how the future of eLearning will go is one that is constantly near the surface.

What’s your take?

About Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

Chris Lema

Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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